Contact Dermatitis? Yes, You Can Get It This Way

You may know it's easy to develop contact dermatitis from common allergens like perfumes, detergents, and—of course—poison ivy, but this skin condition can occur from other causes too.

Contact dermatitis can manifest itself in different ways, including a dry and itchy rash, blistered skin, or even hyperpigmentation that can last for months. It typically appears within 72 hours of exposure to a substance. There are three categories:

  • Irritant Contact Dermatitis, caused by chemicals or physical substances like plants, accounts for about 80 percent of contact dermatitis cases.
  • Allergen Dermatitis results from your body's particular reaction to a substance. It requires you to have prior exposure and to have developed a hypersensitivity to it. This is common for substances like some metals or plants. Symptoms often don't appear until 24 to 72 hours after exposure, making it difficult to identify the culprit.
  • Photocontact Dermatitis is not very common but occurs when an otherwise harmless substance reacts to UV rays and leaves you with an eczema-like condition.

Contact dermatitis is usually easy to avoid once you know its trigger. The following have been discovered to present a contact dermatitis risk:

Musical instruments often contain a combination of metal compounds, exotic woods, and resin. All of these compounds can lead to contact dermatitis. The risk increases when instruments are shared, opening up the door to spreading bacterial and fungal infections. Keeping these as clean as possible is the best way to avoid issues.

Cement and other chrome-containing substances are frequent triggers of allergen dermatitis. While it's unlikely that chrome-plated items will cause a reaction, certain paints, cosmetics, leather goods, and compounds used in construction can pose problems.

Rubber gloves, pillows, and rain boots can cause contact dermatitis for many people. Even if you don't have a rubber allergy, the compounds used in manufacturing the products can trigger a rash.

Citrus peels can trigger allergen contact dermatitis as well, even for people who aren't allergic to the juice or fruit itself. Bartenders and others who work with citrus may want to consider gloves to keep the oil from irritating skin.

Sunscreen contains added fragrance that may trigger an allergic reaction, and (believe it or not) some sunscreens can react badly when exposed to the sun. Look for fragrance-free, hypoallergenic formulas.

Some rashes can appear to be contact dermatitis but may in fact be a fungal infection or eczema. Contact dermatitis is typically not a serious medical condition, but over time symptoms can worsen and in a few cases can cause an allergic reaction that has been know to be life threatening.



Sources: "Contact Dermatitis" U.S. National Library of Medicine: Pub Med Health. Web. Nov 11, 2011. "Musicians at Risk from a Common Skin Condition. Science Daily. Web. Mar 16, 2012.